Bullying at School


Bullying at school has been around for as long as there have been schools. For a long time, it was ignored or seen as "just part of childhood." In the past 20 years, we've seen far too many news stories that show us the graphic evidence of what happens when this behavior is ignored.

Arizona passed an anti-bullying law in 2005, which is a good start, but I ask my Ottawa students every term to interview counselors or administrators at local schools to see how the issue is being addressed on campus. Often, the response is, "We have a zero-tolerance policy. We simply don't allow it," but there's nothing in writing, and school officials can't give a step-by-step description of how the issues are handled.

This excerpt of an article from Bully Police.org gives a good, clear overview of the law:

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On April 20, 2005, Arizona’s Governor, Janet Napolitano, signed HB2388 - an improved revision of HB2368 - a law requiring school districts to have a written plan to prevent harassment and intimidation.

It directs and requires school district governing boards to adopt, prescribe and enforce policies and procedures to prohibit pupils from harassing, intimidating and bullying other pupils on school grounds, on school property, on school buses, at school bus stops and at school sponsored events and activities.

Originally, the statute allowed school teachers to send pupils to the principal’s office to maintain effective discipline in the classroom. Teachers could remove students from the classroom if a pupil’s behavior seriously affected the ability of the teacher to communicate effectively with students in the classroom or the ability of students to learn.

Additionally, the statute provided that every public educational institution in the state must adopt, post and enforce a hazing prevention policy. The hazing prevention policy must be printed in every student handbook for distribution to parents and students.

Hazing is currently defined as any intentional, knowing or reckless act committed by a student, whether individually or in concert with other persons, against another student, and in which both of the following apply:

(a) The act was committed in connection with an initiation into, an affiliation with or the maintenance of membership in any organization that is affiliated with an educational institution.

(b) The act contributes to a substantial risk of potential physical injury, mental harm or degradation or causes physical injury, mental harm or personal degradation.




Currently, numerous states have statewide, anti-bullying laws.

Provisions:

~ Requires school district governing boards to adopt and enforce procedures that prohibit the harassment, bullying and intimidation of pupils on school grounds, school property, school buses, school bus stops and at school sponsored events and activities. The procedures must contain the following:

~ A confidential process that allows pupils to report incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying to school officials.

~ A procedure for the parents or guardians of pupils to submit written reports concerning harassment, intimidation or bullying to school officials.

~ A requirement that school district employees report suspected harassment, intimidation or bullying.

~ A formal process for the documentation and investigation of reported incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying.

~ A formal process for an investigation of suspected incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying.

~ Disciplinary procedures for students admitting to, or who are found guilty of, committing harassment, intimidation or bullying.

~ A procedure that provides consequences for submitting false reports of harassment, intimidation or bullying.

~ Adds the school district and school district employees to those groups that are immune from civil liability for the consequences of adoption and implementation of policies and procedures regarding school district governing board requirements under Section 15-341, subsection A and the discretionary powers of school district governing boards under Section 15-342, unless guilty of gross negligence or intentional misconduct.

~ Makes technical and conforming changes.

47th Legislature First Regular Session 2 April 15, 2005 Signed by the Governor April 20, 2005

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The Bully Police website also offers an example of an Anti Bullying Policy for schools, and encourages school officials to adopt it and use it.

If you are working in a school with a vague policy, or no policy, I would encourage you to take this information to your administrator and see how it can be used at your school. No need to re-invent the wheel -- it's already been invented and is waiting to be applied.

There are also several existing programs that work well in the schools, including the Olweus Program, which I've heard many good things about over the years. Again, there's no need to re-invent the wheel, just do what you can to give it a push and start it rolling. If you go to the Olweus site, click on the tab that says "What is Bullying?" This page gives a good, clear overview.

There's also some good information available now on cyber-bullying (threats and intimidation by text, by e-mail, on social networking sites, in chat rooms, etc.), and an article with a list of steps to take to put a stop to it. This is a growing concern, because the students who engage in it can feel powerful without taking the risks of face-to-face intimidation.

If you are a school counselor, all students involved in bullying -- including those directly involved, and the bystanders -- could really benefit from your help. This is one of those areas where "You can make a difference" is not just a cliche. You can help change lives.


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